What do you do when a professional you have entrusted with your health makes a devastating mistake? You can file a medical malpractice lawsuit to recover damages from all responsible parties. Although money is no replacement for your health, awards in medical malpractice claims can be quite large and can go a long way in helping you put your life back together. Unfortunately, litigating a medical malpractice claim can also be complex.
There’s hardly any way around it; you need a lawyer to litigate or negotiate a medical malpractice case successfully. At Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner, our attorneys have the experience and stellar track record of helping people like you receive the best outcome after a devastating healthcare encounter.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice occurs when a healthcare provider injures a patient through their failure to give the patient proper care. To have a successful medical malpractice claim, you must prove one of the following:
- Your healthcare provider failed to follow the accepted standard of care in your case and caused injury;
- You suffered a healthcare-related injury that your healthcare provider promised would not occur; or
- You suffered injuries caused by a healthcare treatment to which you did not consent.
Proving any one of these scenarios requires complex medical information and an understanding of healthcare industry standards.
What Are the Most Common Types of Medical Malpractice in Washington?
In a five-year study of medical malpractice, the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) found that some of the most common malpractice cases involve:
- Improper performance,
- Failure to diagnose,
- Improper technique,
- Improper management,
- Failure to ensure safety, and
- Delay in diagnosis.
Defendants in your lawsuit could include physicians, nurses, chiropractors, and hospitals. If you sue a hospital for an individual healthcare practitioner’s medical errors, you are claiming the hospital is vicariously liable for the practitioner. The practitioner would have had to have committed one of the listed or other acts that constitute medical malpractice. Vicarious liability cases are some of the most common medical malpractice cases.
What Kinds of Damages Are Available in Medical Malpractice Cases?
There are two kinds of damages you can recover in a medical malpractice case: economic damages and noneconomic damages. Within these damage categories, several subcategories that might apply in your case.
Your economic damages are all of your financial losses caused by a healthcare professional’s errors. These can include your current losses and whatever future losses you can prove, such as:
- Medical expenses,
- Wage loss,
- Costs of obtaining substitute services,
- Loss of employment opportunities, and
- Loss of business opportunities.
You will likely need sophisticated evaluations from professionals to calculate all of the ways you can expect your injury to affect you financially over your lifetime. Receipts, invoices, medical records, and expert testimony are important when building a strong case for economic damages.
Noneconomic damages are far more subjective and harder to calculate, but they are an important part of your rights. You can recover noneconomic damages for:
- Mental anguish,
- Loss of society,
- Emotional distress,
- Loss of companionship,
- Loss of consortium,
- Injury to reputation,
- Humiliation, and
- Loss of a parent-child relationship.
Please note that Washington State law limits the amount of noneconomic damages you can recover. You cannot recover more than 0.43 times your average annual wage and life expectancy.
How do you reduce your noneconomic losses to a dollar amount? Your best option is to keep detailed notes about the changes you have suffered and speak to an experienced lawyer about how it has all impacted your life. An attorney who has tried multiple medical malpractice cases can guide you regarding just compensation.
The Average Settlement Amount
The OIC reports that malpractice insurers paid a total of $186,167,617 for medical malpractice claims closed in 2019. The average payment or settlement amount for one claim was $624,724. From 2015 through 2019, the average amount paid to claimants who did not file lawsuits was $127,522, and the average for claimants who litigated was $683,984. Whether you litigate or settle your case out of court, a lawyer can significantly increase your chances of success.
Awards and settlements vary greatly depending on the victim’s life expectancy, wage history, relationships, lifestyle (before and after), type of injury, and severity of injury. For the period beginning in 2015 through the end of 2019, the OIC reports the following claim payment averages by injury type:
- Solely emotional injury — $92,582;
- “Insignificant” injury — $16,277;
- Minor temporary injury — $48,980;
- Major temporary injury — $178,651;
- Minor permanent injury — $258,479;
- Significant permanent injury — $617,632;
- Major permanent injury — $1,090,679;
- Grave permanent injury — $2,452,935; and
- Death – $651,324.
When negotiating your case, do not rely too heavily on average settlements for medical malpractice lawsuits in Washington State. Each case is unique and should be evaluated by a legal expert.
What Is the Time Limit for Filing a Medical Malpractice Claim?
You do not have much time to file a malpractice claim against a healthcare provider. In general, you have three years from the time of your injury to file a claim or suit. Or you have one year from the time you knew or should have known that a healthcare provider caused your injury.
In any event, the law does not let you file a claim or suit any later than eight years after the time of your injury. There are exceptions to this eight-year deadline if your case involves fraud, intentional concealment, or the presence of a non-therapeutic foreign item in your body.
These timelines can become confusing quickly, and time passes fast when you are injured. It is important to speak to an attorney as soon as you suspect something is wrong, so you have the best chance of preserving your rights.
We Have the Experience and Compassion You Need
At Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner, we are compassionate. We have over 40 years of experience, and we are aggressive when we need to be. We have also been setting settlement and verdict records since 1972. We have won over $100 million for our clients, and we are still going strong, fighting for our client’s rights and wellbeing.
Suffering an injury at the hands of an irresponsible healthcare provider can be scary and lonely. But please do not be scared to ask for help. Our Washington State attorneys are here to protect and fight for you. You can call us or reach out to us online for a free consultation. We are available to chat 24/7.